Dragon by Dragon – June 1982 (62)

Today we move into the Summer of 1982, in which from sheer boredom nerds everywhere looked forward to the new Dragon magazine. After all, it’s not like there were any good movies or shows in ’82 …

Of course I’m joking – Airplane II was released in 1982. It was nice to see Shatner in a movie – he was otherwise pretty quiet that year.

Still – summer is a great time to nestle under the air conditioning and read – what did Dragon have to offer other than a famous and fantastic cover image?

First things first – I just found out something about this ad

Apparently, among those D&D players are Alan Ruck and Jami Gertz. Just found this out from Old School FRP on Tumblr. Gertz was super nerd-cute back in the day, if that makes any sense at all. And Ruck … hey, you know Cameron and Ferris played D&D at some point.

First cool article in this issue is on Faerie Dragons. I don’t know why, but I always loved faerie dragons in D&D – it may have been the illustration in Monster Manual II. I think I owned MM2 before I had the original Monster Manual, and I know I had it before I owned the Fiend Folio, so the monsters there loomed large in my estimation of the game. I also remember an exact copy of the MM2 faerie dragon appeared in a video game that a buddy and I used to play at 7-Eleven. It was a fantasy game, very anime in its feel, and I wish I knew the name of it. Maybe a reader knows?

Anyhow -the faerie dragon was created by Brian Jaeger, and until reading the article, I forgot about how they changed color as they aged. I think its a fantastic monster – well doen Mr. Jaeger.

The special dragons section in the mag also presents Steel Dragons by Pat Reinken (with a really cool illustration) and Grey Dragons with another cool illustration. I’m not sure about the artist – I feel like I should know that symbol, but it’s not coming to me.

Roger Moore then presents “Evil Dragon Armors” in the “Bazaar of the Bizarre”. Plate armor made from dragon scales is as D&D as heck, and one of the things the game should highlight more than it does – you know, those things that tap right into the imagination, things that every 12 year old knows is cool whether they’ve heard of D&D or not.

For fans of standardization, Gary Gygax presents some info on spellbooks – the types (standard and traveling, the traveling spellbook containing a fourth of the spells of a standard book), the cost (standard spellbooks cost 1000 gp for materials + 100 gp per spell level of spells contained within, traveling spellbooks are 500 gp + the same), the size (standard are 16″ tall, 12″ wide and 6″ thick, traveling 12″ tall, 6″ wide, 1″ thick) and so on. Great article for those who like the details, completely unnecessary for those who like to keep it light and imaginative.

This is followed up by four long-lost magical manuals in Ed Greenwood’s “Pages from the Mages”. I’ve mentioned this before, but while Forgotten Realms did nothing for me as a setting, Greenwood’s articles about the Realms were massively inspirational for me. They are all worth reading.

But wait – there’s more … the NPC class “The Scribe”, by Ed Greenwood. I was always hooked on NPC classes as a kid, and it killed me that I could see the names of classes in the Dragon indexes they would publish, but had no access to the classes that came along before I was a reader/subscriber. The scribe could actually be a pretty awesome companion to an adventuring party. They can wear any armor and use any weapon, but always attack as a first level fighter. So – not useless in a fight. On top of that, they have some neat special abilities involving writing, and can cast some spells from scrolls.

Roger Moore has another article in this, on the point of view of half-orcs and on the gods of the orcs. Again – great for their inspirational value even if you don’t want to use Moore’s concepts in your particular game. Here’s a neat bit from the article on the gods of the orcs:

“The division of orcs into separate tribes (Evil Eye, Death Moon, Broken Bone, etc.) is usually made along cult lines. The tribal symbol is the holy symbol of the orcish god the tribe holds as its patron. Each patron god seeks to make his followers more powerful than those of the others, since their own power derives from the relative power and might of their worshipers.”

Orc tribes are pawns of their gods, who care little for their followers beyond what they can do for the god. Why are the orcs causing trouble? Their god or goddess told them to – that’s all they need to know.

The magazine contains a full adventure for Top Secret set in Chinatown written by Jerry Epperson. I know little about the game, so I can’t really review it.

Gordon Linzner has a bit of fiction in the issue, “The Feline Phantom”. As is usual for this review series, I present the first paragraph:

“The river of school children flowed past her hips, occasionally rising to her ribs, but Evelyn Slade was exceptionally tall and stood firm against the current. The stream engulfed the monorail she’d just stepped from, then split into a score of individuals motivated by only one thought: Grab the best seat. All viewing locations were, by design, equally good; but try telling that to a nine-year-old New Yorker! Fortunately,
one ride above the Wild Asia exhibit — where Bronx Zoo visitors watched from mobile “cages” as animals roamed in comparative freedom — had proved sufficient.”

Lenard Lakofka presents magic for merchants in “Leomund’s Tiny Hut”. The idea is that members of merchant guilds can gain access to some simple spells, mostly cantrips, but also a few “mysteries” like alarm, appreciate, bell, drowsiness, glue, grab, hound, lapse, lock, pacify, panic and spin. Master guild members can get some 1st and 2nd level magic-user spells. There’s a part of me that likes the idea of lots of spellcasters floating around a campaign world, and another part of me that likes to keep magic more rare. For the former part of me, this is a groovy article.

Phil Meyers and Steve Bill present “Zadron’s Pouch of Wonders”. If you are familiar with AD&D, you’ll get the idea. Reach into the pouch and pull out a randomly determined something. I actually love that kind of stuff – spices up a game and creates wonderful surprises.

After the reviews, we get some Wormy – the cyclops and his cyclops dog are playing D&D …

… plus some ideas on strength by Phil and Dixie, and a few cartoons in Dragon Mirth.

But before we leave – check out this beauty …

Only $40 on Ebay for the Atari 400!

Dragon by Dragon – February 1982 (58)

The Clyde Caldwell cover to the February 1982 Dragon Magazine is chock-full of fantasy tropes. You have the warrior woman in weird, revealing armor and a gnome fighter mounted on a giant lizard. You also get a Clyde Caldwell trope, namely lots of feathers. That said, I adore Caldwell’s work, and consider it fundamental to 80’s D&D.

We’ll begin this rule with the editorial – which is rare for me. This one deals with “assassin” and “killer” games, and is written on the subject due to an incident in December 1981 in which a college student playing Assassin was shot by police. I bring it up because I played a game of TAG (The Assassination Game) in junior high school. Well – briefly. I managed to get assassinated while walking from first to second period, but remember that by lunch period we were informed that the school had put an end to it due to one idiot performing an assassination during class. I suppose these days the entire school district would be put on lockdown if some kids were playing “assassination”.  What odd memories we nerds have of youth.

The first big article this month is by Len Lakofka, who is “Beefing up the Cleric.” This article introduces a multitude of new cleric spells that will show up later in official AD&D product. They include ceremony, combine (a neat idea), magic stone, magic vestment, messenger, dust devil, enthrall and negative plane protection. One spell I didn’t immediately recognize – readers of this blog might have better memories than I – Death Prayer (2nd level). This spell reduces the likelihood of a corpse being animated at a later date.

The Dragon’s Bestiary includes the sull and beguiler by Ed Greenwood and Magenta’s cat by Roger E. Moore. These last monsters are the descendants of a cat familiar who was made psionic by its mistress, Magenta, and in the process freed from its obligations as a familiar. It went out and made babies, and they inherited the psionic powers. It’s a very cool idea – a psionic cat causing trouble in a village, trouble blamed on some legendary menace the adventurers try to hunt down.

Michael Parkinson offers up “Medusa’s Blood”. This article details the many creatures that were born from Medusa’s blood, including old fantasy favorites like Pegasus, the Lernaean hydra, the chimera, Cerberus and the Theban sphinx. Some new monsters from the lineage of Medusa include Geryon (the three-headed and three-bodied giant, not the demon lord), Echidna and the Blatant Beast.

The Medusa article is followed up by “Four Myths from Greece”, with stats for Atalanta the huntress (9th level fighter), Daedalus (sage/engineer), the Sybil of Cumae (16th level cleric) and Chiron (15th level centaur ranger).

Dragon 58 has a special section all about dwarves, featuring “The Dwarven Point of View”, “The Gods of the Dwarves”, “Sage Advice on Dwarves” and “Dwarven Magical Items”. Dragon did a few of these series, and elements of them became standard parts of Dungeons & Dragons in later days, especially the dwarven pantheon. Roger E. Moore’s “The Dwarven Point of View” is one of those articles that represents the inflection point of the original DIY days and the middle phase of “explain it all”. It’s a useful article for folks new to fantasy gaming, but I suppose some folks didn’t like the Dragon magazine doing articles that might tie their creative hands, what with it being “semi-official” in D&D world.

I liked this bit from “Sage Advice”:

“Why aren’t ettins mentioned among the bigger creatures which attack dwarves and gnomes at -4?

Ettins may be big and dumb, but they don’t suffer any penalty “to hit” against dwarves and gnomes because of the most obvious difference between ettins and other big humanoids: their two heads. In the words of the Monster Manual, “One of the ettin’s heads is always likely to be alert, so they are difficult to surprise.” And, presumably, also difficult to sneak up on in any other way.”

Now let’s be honest – the answer here is “crap, we forgot to include the ettin”.

Another question that struck me is one that shows a clash of mindsets that I’ve seen myself in our hobby. The question writer asks:

“What would be a reasonable spread of races and sub-races for adventurers and NPCs? For instance, what would be the chance of a PC dwarf being a mountain dwarf?”

An interesting question, and one that would be answerable in a particular campaign, or if there was really such a thing as dwarves and we have solid demographic data on  them. I appreciate the answer:

“The chance of a player character dwarf being a mountain dwarf is 100% — if the player wants to be one, and if no circumstances of the campaign prohibit such a choice.”

I’ve fielded a few similar questions from people reading my games, as though I had some special right to tell them what they could and could not do in their own homes. Some folks have the mindset that there is a “right and wrong” to these games we play, and they seek answers from “authorities”. This isn’t a dig against these folks – it’s just a way of looking at things that differs from mine that I find interesting.

On the topic of “The Gods of the Dwarves” – I really loved Moradin when I was a kid. The demi-human pantheon was another case for me, as a young man, of being amazed that you could make up pretend gods and goddesses for a game. This article also introduces a new undead monster – the rapper.

This issue of Dragon also has a bit of fiction from J. Eric Holmes called “The Bag”. It involves a character of his called Boinger. I haven’t read this one, but I’ll include the first couple paragraphs as a taste for those who might want to delve deeper:

“Perhaps the small master is looking for something special?”

The muscular young halfling put down the leather backpack he had been examining and looked at the person who had addressed him. He was worth looking at, Boinger decided. For one thing, his species was not one the adventurer had ever seen before. The creature was obviously not human; his complexion was slate grey and his face was covered with wrinkles so that it looked like a folded piece of linen with a long, pointy nose sticking out. He was shorter than Boinger himself. Some sort of gnome, the halfling thought, out of the north, I suppose. Shorter than a dwarf, taller than a Lilliputian …”

In Robert Barrow’s “Aiming for Realism in Archery: Longer Ranges, Truer Targets” you get another article trying to make the game more realistic. This one has a useful little table about archery accuracy derived from medieval tournament data:

This article is followed up by “Bowmanship Made More Meaningful” by Carl Parlagreco. This one introduced the idea of minimum strength scores for different bows – a 16 for composite longbows, for example, or 8 for short bows. Using a bow without having the strength required presents a -2 penalty to hit per point of strength deficiency. There’s more – so check it out if you like more realism in D&D.

David Nalle presents “Swords – Slicing Into a Sharp Topic”, which gets into the weeds on that fantasy staple, the sword. You get information on its history and construction. No game stats in this one, but good information for folks new to the topic.

There is also an article by Glenn Rahman on the Knights of Camelot Game. I’ve never played the game, so I cannot review the article, per se, but I love the bit on “Acts of Villainy”. These include:

  1. Distressing a Lady
  2. Imprisoning Persons
  3. Looting a Shrine
  4. Piracy
  5. Seizing a Castle by Storm
  6. Slaying a Good Knight
  7. Slaying a Goodly Hermit Man

This is a great checklist for Chaotic/Evil characters in any game – try to do three or four of these things in every game. The article also has two awesome little tables – the kind of random fun that screams old school gaming to me. The first deals with the merchant ships you might run into while being a pirate:

The second is a random table of dying curses from goodly hermits:

It is so hard to keep track of things like this, but I love the idea of using them during play.

Speaking of useful stuff, Jon Mattson’s “Anything But Human” is for Traveller, but could be useful to anyone. It is a collection of random tables for creating aliens. As always, my review of this article consists of using it – here’s my random alien:

It’s a mammal, feline, average of 67 inches tall, that has a bonus of +1 to education and a penalty of -1 to strength and social standing (which in D&D-esque games would be a bonus to intelligence and a penalty to strength and charisma). The creature has a -3 to their psionic rating. It has no special abilities.

“What’s New? – with Phil and Dixie” covers love magic in D&D. I had a crush on Dixie as a kid … and probably still do.

This issue also has cut-out counters of all the magic-user spells to aid magic-user players in keeping track of what they’re doing.

As always, I’ll leave you with Wormy …

Grandeur from Tramp

Dragon by Dragon – September 1981 (53)

Glory be – I finally have enough time this weekend to do another Dragon by Dragon, this one on issue #53 from September 1981.

The first thing I noticed about this issue was the cover. This was not an issue I had as a young nerd, but the cover painting by Clyde Cauldwell, which makes it seem very familiar.

I started playing D&D in 1984, introduced by a friend, Josh Tooley, in 6th grade. He watched his older brother play with some friends, and so with a hand-drawn map on notebook paper, a d6 and a vague recollection of what went on, he ran me through a dungeon during recess. I was hooked, and convinced my parents to get me the game – in this case Moldvay Basic purchased at Toys ‘r’ Us – for Christmas. Good times.

So, let’s see what TSR had to offer 35 years ago.

One of the best things about these magazines in the old days were the advertisements. All these games – and God knew what they were – with all this art. It was all so new to me when I was a kid. Take this ad from I.C.E.

I never had any of their games, but I always admired the art in the adverts – and can you have a cooler name for a company than Iron Crown Enterprises?

Jake Jaquet’s editorial this issue was just the tip of the iceberg …

“There is a bit of a new trend in gaming that I find a bit disturbing, and perhaps it should be food for thought for all of us. I refer to the recent interest in so-called “live” games, especially of the “assassin” or “killer” varieties.”

I remember back in 7th grade some kids running T.A.G. – The Assassinatiom Game. All who participated had to draw the name of another player and kill them – which meant pointing at them and saying “bang”. The victim would then hand his slip over to his assassin, and so it would go until the game was over. Alas, but 2nd period it was all over – a couple morons tried to assassinate their victims in class, and the administration called the game off. I suppose now we would have all been expelled.

Enough of this memory lane stuff, let’s get on to the offerings:

“Why Isn’t This Monk Smiling?” by Philip Meyers brings up the shortcomings of the monk class, and tries to improve on it. The point is actually well made – the idea of suffering through many very weak levels to be powerful at high levels may appear balanced, but it doesn’t work well in practice. To fix things, Philip introduces a new level advancement chart, plays with the rate at which the monk improves its abilities, and adds some new special abilities, some of them psychic. He also makes it easier for the monk to hit those higher levels, without always having to fight another monk.

The monk isn’t out of the fire yet. Steven D. Howard writes in “Defining and Realigning the Monk” a few questions and answers about the monk, mostly to cover why they can’t do some things (answer – I guess it wouldn’t be lawful) and how to once again handle the whole limited number of monks over 7th level. This issue’s Sage Advice keeps the hits coming, with more discussion of the good old monk.

Dude – I had those. Still have some of them, as a matter of fact. Love that packaging, and I always dug that logo.

Next up is Andrew Dewar’s “The Oracle”. This character class always seems like a obvious choice for gaming, but because it deals with the future (which turns out, it is not possible to predict), pulling it off is always tough, both in terms of the abilities, and making it a playable class. Of course, the oracle here is an “NPC class”, meaning not meant for players, but we all played them anyways.

The oracle can cast divination spells, and can use some other divination abilities. It must have an Int and Wis of 14 or higher. Oracles can be human, elf or half-elf. Advancing beyond 11th level requires the oracle to challenge a higher level oracle to a game of riddles (which makes no sense if this is an NPC class … and there is actually half a page spent discussing advancing in level over 11th level).

The innate abilities are various forms of divination – rhabdomancy, arithomancy, etc. – which the class has a percentage chance of using successfully at different levels.

Lewis Pulsipher has a nice introduction to heraldry in “Understanding Armory”. It’s a great primer for those interested in the subject.

Roger E. Moore has the lowdown on “Some Universal Rules – Making Your Own Campaign – and Making It Work”, which covers exactly what he says. He gives a step-by-step on how he designed an original campaign world, based on nothing but his imagination. He also gives a nice set of ways from getting from one universe to another:

1. Cross-universal caves – always go from one world to another.
2. Teleport chains – a length chain of a weird metal that, when surrounding a group and the ends joined pops them into another world.
3. Rings or amulets – like the fabled Ring of Gaxx
4. Rooms and corridors at the bottom of a dungeon
5. Cursed scrolls
6. Angry wizard with a new spell
7. Wish
8. Magical items causing etherealness
9. Psionic probability travel
10. Magic spells (astral spell, plane shift)
11. Mutational planar travel (i.e. Gamma World)
12. Artifacts
13. Advanced technology
14. Acts of the gods

He also notes Dorothy’s ruby slippers

Judith Sampson has a really interesting article called “Adventuring With Shaky Hands”, in which she describes playing the game with choreo-athetoid cerebral palsy. Worth a read.

In “Larger than Life”, David Nalle covers “The Bogatyrs of Old Kiev”. Here are a few highlights:

Prince Vladimir I, The Saint, is a LG 13th level fighter in +5 chainmail with a +3/+4 broad sword. Ilya Muromets is  a LG 20th level fighter – a Cossack with long blond hair – with a mace that scores 2d10 damage.

He also has stats for Baba Yaga, though I don’t know how they compare to the later version in the famous Dancing Hut adventure.

Speaking of adventures, this issue has “The Garden of Nefaron” by Howard de Wied. This adventure won first place in the Advanced Division IDDC II, so it has that going for it, which is nice. This puppy includes some wilderness and a dungeon, and is meant for a large group of relatively high level characters. It also includes some nice Jim Holloway art, one of my faves.

The dungeon has a ki-rin as its caretaker, there are corridors and rooms filled with magic mists, illusions and a really great map (with Dyson-esque cross-hatching).


#53 also has some Top Secret material by Merle M. Rasmussen, with scads of spy equipment.

The Dragon’s Bestiary covers Argas (by James Hopkins II), lawful good reptilian humanoids that gain powers from devouring magic, Oculons (by Roger E. Moore), which are enchanted monsters created by magic-users as guardians (and which look super cool) and Narra (by Jeff Goetz), which are lawful human-headed bulls.

Len Lakofka has some extensive info on doors in his Tiny Hut and Matt Thomas does some work on the AD&D disease rules in “Give Disease a Fighting Chance”.

If you like triffids, you’ll like “The Way of the Triffids” by Mark Nuiver. Let’s do a triffid in Blood & Treasure stats:


Type: Small to Large
Size: Plant
Hit Dice: 6
Armor Class: 7
Attack: Stinger (10′/1d3 + poison)
Move: 10′
Save: 14
Intelligence: Low
Alignment: Neutral (N) with evil tendencies
No. Appearing: 1
XP/CL: 600/7

They can hide in foliage with 94% chance of success, and they attack with a stinger. The stinger requires two saves vs. poison. If the first is saved, it means instant death. If the second is failed it means blindness and 2d4 additional points of damage.

For the Traveller fans, Dennis Matheson presents “Merchants Deserve More, Too”, which covers character creation for merchants.

Another great ad. I’d dig one of these shirts.

Besides reviews and such, that’s it for September 1981 … except for the comics.Here’s a dandy from Will McLean …

And though no Wormy this month, here’s one of the nifty D&D comics by Willingham …

Khellek shouldn’t be confused with Kellek

“That’s the pepper – right down the middle!”

Or Kelek, Evil Sorcerer

Apparently a popular name among magic-users.

Have fun, guys and gals!

The Trouble with Merchants

Depending on what style of fantasy campaign you are designing, merchants can be a problem. In a medieval milieu, they link villages, towns and cities together, providing important lines of communication and making items cheaper by their trade. They make maps and charts and make travel less dangerous and less mysterious. This is fine in a reality-based campaign, of course, but can present problems with a fantasy campaign.

On the other hand, merchants and their travails can be a powerful ally in building a fairy tale world of hundreds of small kingdoms, dangerous, mysterious wilderlands and, in the true Gygaxian spirit, unrealistically expensive equipment if you make them few and far between.

The real world is one in which trade may be about as old as war, or possibly older than organized warfare. In my research into the prehistoric world (i.e. pre-writing, pre-Bronze Age), I was amazed to find that stone beads manufactured in India/Pakistan had found there way at least as far as the Balkans, and that trade between groups over long distances was not terribly rare. Even when human beings had very primitive transportation – no wheels, no horses or other beasts of burden and only the simplest water craft – they managed to trade with one another over sometimes quite long trade routes. Impressive.

Of course, what those prehistoric merchants and their ancient and medieval counterparts did not have to deal with was a fantasy random encounter chart. Sure, there were storms and accidents, and probably some lions, tigers and bears, but no dragons, water elementals, genies, demons, devils or purple worms, not to mention large tribes of humanoids who might just as soon kill you as talk with you. Even a relatively weak demon or devil, immune to normal and silver weapons and with decent magic resistance, could destroy a large caravan protected by men-at-arms.

When we take these factors into account, we can make successful journeys by 0-level or low-level humanoids very rare. In fact, we can make such journeys primarily the activity of mid-level adventurers, with side jaunts into dungeons and the like along the way. Imagine if the average kingdom maybe got visitors from neighboring kingdoms (those within 50 miles, we’ll say) once a year, tops. Visits from further away might occur once a decade, or once a century. People who were thought to be mythical – the two-headed purple folk of Hvaroo – might pull up one day in a large galleon loaded with spices and magic no living person in your home kingdom has ever seen, and will probably never see again in their lifetime!

By doing so, we can create a world of very small clusters of settlements – kingdoms, of course, for in fairy tales almost every ruler is a king or queen – separated by tracts of very dangerous wilderness. The settlements don’t even need to be very far apart – two or three days journey with dangerous encounters in between can be enough to ruin an expedition, and each ruined expedition makes future expeditions more unlikely due to the loss of money, the loss of key personnel, etc.

Each kingdom must largely rely on its own resources, agricultural, mineral, etc., and this means you can make certain resources or items the specialty of specific kingdoms. Maybe only a few kingdoms have armorers who know how to make full plate armor, most just stick to boring old chainmail or platemail. If you want the full plate, you have to travel. Likewise, certain gemstones required by material components – diamonds are mined in Vardak and since the trade caravans and ships sent there failed to come back, you have to go there yourself to get the large diamond you need to cast the magic spell to blah blah blah. You get the idea.

Of course, we also need to ignore a little more reality and allow these petty kingdoms to develop a level of technology that would generally be impossible without trade. Hey – it’s fantasy. We can fudge a few things to get the atmosphere right.

Rare trade means you get to populate your world with dozens of petty kingdoms with their own strange customs, laws and problems. Just as Australia developed some very unique animals due to its separation from other land masses, each kingdom can develop some pretty unique traits due to largely being cut off from the rest of humanity. Some random tables like the ones at Chaotic Shiny can help generate ideas – you can use unique royal titles (all hail the Grand Karnak of Carsonne), come up with one or two strange taboos (everyone knows you must not wear red in the presence of the Queen – off with their heads!), give the place something to be proud of (in Falala we have the world’s foremost sage specializing in dragons ) and throw in some fun costumes (it has always been the way to wear hats upside down in Urnok), dialects, currency, cookery, etc. and travel becomes not only more interesting, but also easier to keep track of for players. A string of villages and towns that all have vaguely Medieval French names and customs might be hard to keep track of, but really odd kingdoms will stick in the mind.

Dragon by Dragon – November 1980 (43)

It’s time for another review of the grand old Dragon, and this time with a special guest appearance by White Dwarf #21. I figure, why not look at what WD was up to during the same month of Dragon I’m reviewing – see how the gaming communities in the US and UK differed.

First, though, we’ll dip into the Dragon and see what $3 got you back in 1980.

As you might be able to tell from the cover, this issue presents a new version of the Witch as an “NPC” class, written by Bill Mulhausen and revised and edited by Kim Mohan and Tom Moldvay. The first was back in Dragon #20, from November of 1978. I guess November is the month for witches.

This version is much like the one that will appear a few years later, dividing the witch into low (level 1-16) and high (level 17-22) orders. This is reminiscent of the AD&D druid. Here are a few of the essentials of the witch:

Requirements: Intelligence and Wisdom must be 15 or higher, must be human or elf (and elves are limited to 9th level, and can multi-class as witches).

Hit Dice: d4 to 11th level, +1 hit point per level thereafter.

Attack and save as magic-users.

Witches receive bonus spells for high Intelligence, as a cleric does for high Wisdom. Their chance to know each spell and such are as for a magic-user. For younger readers, AD&D magic-users had a percent chance to be able to learn any given spell of a level. This was based on their intelligence. You had to roll for each spell to see if a magic-user could learn it. So yeah, you could conceivably have a magic-user who couldn’t learn magic missile, fireball or lightning bolt.

The witch has rules for followers (gains 1d10x20 at 9th level if she establishes a place of worship), and rules about how many apprentices she can have.) She can apply for membership in the high order at level 10 if her Intelligence and Wisdom are 16 or higher and if she possesses a magic crystal ball, mirror or libram. High order witches can advance to 22nd level, and they receive special high order spells at each level from 16 to 22.

Besides their spells, they can brew poisons and narcotics, which they learn as they advance in level. This includes sleep (3rd level), truth (4th level) and love potions 6th level). She can read druid scrolls with no chance of failure, magic-user and illusionist scrolls with a 10% chance of failure and cleric spells if the spell is also on the witch’s spell list (8th level).

Witches can manufacture one magic candle per month at 9th level. The candles can cause love, offer magical protection, heal damage and other effects. She gets a familiar at 10th level, can brew flying ointment at 13th level, control dolls at 15th level, can fascinate with her gaze at 17th level, use limited wish at 21st level and shape change at 22nd level.

The witch has 8 levels of spells, which involve lots of charming, divination, some healing and a few offensive spells. It’s a cool class, but I can’t help but think you’d be just as well off with a magic-user.

Dave Cook (that one) offers some survival tips for the Slave Pits tournament at GenCon XIII. I only mention it here because those adventures went on to be classics when they were published as modules.

We also learn in this issue that Frank Mentzer won the 4th Invitational AD&D Masters Tournament at GenCon XIII. Dig that crazy shirt …

Speaking of great Dungeon Masters, this issue has a DM Evaluation Form for players to fill out. Here’s a sample …

This runs on for several pages and 43 questions! A couple issues ago, a reader complained that the adventures in the magazine were filler. This, ladies and gentlemen, is filler. I’m guessing GenCon kept them busy.

The Bestiary has some choice bits …

This is an amazon, art by Erol Otus (of course), monster by Roger E. Moore. I’d detail the monster stats here, but frankly, they’re humans and the women do all the “men’s work” and vice versa. Not much to see here – but the art is cool.

Todd Lockwood has a monster called a Tolwar that is basically a trunkless elephant who can telekinetically throw boulders (2d12 damage). They serve as loyal mounts.

Tolwar, Large Monster: HD 6, AC 15, ATK 1 slam (2d4) or 2 boulders (900’/2d12), MV 40′, SV F10 R11 W17, AL Neutral (N), XP 600 (CL 7), Special-Hurl boulders, only surprised on 1, telekinesis (100 lb), catch boulders with telekinesis (75%).

Ed Greenwood presents the lythlyx, a weird spiral creature that whips, constrict and drain blood from people.

Lythlyx, Large Aberration: HD 6, AC 19, ATK 1 whip (2d6 + constrict 3d6 + blood drain 1d4), MV 15′ (Fly 20′, Swim 20′), SV F13 R14 W11, AL Neutral (N), XP 600 (CL 7), Special-Blood drain can be used to heal monster (heal 1 hp per 4 hp taken), immune to charm, command, fear, hold monster and sleep, psionic attacks (all).

Now, give me a bunch of amazon warriors on tolwars hurling boulders at a band of adventurers who have stolen some amazon gold and are hiding in a half-ruined wizard’s tower, and you’ve got an adventure.

Philip Meyers has an article about disbelieving illusions, or more specifically phantasmal force. He comes up with a little system based on the intelligence of viewer and how suspicious they are about what they’re seeing. In the table below, situation 1 represents a character who has been informed about the illusion, and 6 is where the character expects to see what the illusion is depicting – in other words, 1 is super suspicious, and 6 is not suspicious at all.

The number is the percent chance of disbelief. It is increase by +20% if olfactory or thermal components are expected but not present, +20% if aural components are expected but not present, +10% if victim of illusion is an illusionist, -10% if victim is surprised and +10% if victim’s Wisdom is 15 or higher.

I reckon you can do about the same by giving a bonus to save vs. phantasmal force as opposed to improved phantasmal force or spectral force.

This issue contains a Traveller adventure called Canard. I won’t comment, because I’ve never played Traveller, but if you’re a fan, it’s probably worth checking out.

Two reviews which might be of interest – the first a Game Designers Workshop (not Games Workshop, as I originally posted) offering called Azhanti High Lightning, about fighting aboard a giant starship. The review was positive, but wonders whether or not they should have tried to tie it to Traveller.

They also review SPI’s DragonQuest, their first “serious” foray into Fantasy RPGs. The reviewer likes it – the intentional rather than random character generation, the action points in combat – but does not care for the way experience is handed out. Overall – positive review, and another reminder that Old School gaming was already becoming “Old School” in 1980.

I’ll also note Hero, by Yaquinto Games. It was an “album game” – “The physical layout is like that of a double record album. The components are stored in the pockets, while the playing surface is printed on the two inside faces.”

Very cool idea, and it would be fun to see something similar done these days, especially considering the connection between Old School gaming and bitchin’ Heavy Metal album art.

I liked this comic …

A scroll of illiteracy would be a great cursed item in a game.

A fair issue of Dragon, with a couple notable bits.

So, what was White Dwarf up to in November (really Oct/Nov) of 1980.

First – cool cover, but there are much better WD covers yet to come. You also notice, right off, that the layout of WD is much more professional than for Dragon at this point. Dragon makes some improvements over the years, but frankly never looked as good, and by the 1990’s and 2000’s looked terrible.

In this issue, Andrew Finch presents some cool material inspired by The Chronicle of Thomas Covenant, Unbeliever. We have a new class, Lore Lords, who combine the spell-casting ability of magic-users and clerics, along with d8 hit dice and studded leather armor. Fortunately, this is balanced by a high XP requirement. Similar classes are the Rhadamaerl, who specialize in the lord of stone, and Hirebrand, who specializes in the lore of wood. There are also Bloodguards, who serve as bodyguards for Lore Lords, songs of summoning and words of power. Having never read the Thomas Convenant books, I cannot rate how accurate these classes are, but for fans they’re probably worth checking out. One bit I liked for Lore Lords was their ability to communicate telepathically with one another. A cool house rule might permit magic-users with intelligence and wisdom of 15 or higher to communicate this way with one another.

Roger E. Moore (yeah, that guy) presents a merchant class. It’s actually pretty close to the Venturer class I did, and I promise I hadn’t seen this write up when I wrote mine. Moore’s merchants can open locks, appraise items and use suggestion and command when speaking with people. These are all percentage skills, like those of the thief. Good class.

Azhanti High Lightning gets a review in this issue – positive as in the Dragon.

The Fiend Factory has several cool monsters, the Brothers of the Pine, Chthon, Enslaver, Micemen, Dragon Warriors, Grey Sqaargs and Cyclops. Here are some quick stats:

Brothers of the Pine, Medium Undead: HD 3, AC 15 [+1], ATK 1 weapon, MV 30′, SV F15 R15 W12, AL Chaotic (LE/NE), XP 1500 (CL 5), Special-Cast one 1st level druid spell per day, shrieking wail (save or flee for 1d8 turns), immune to cold, resistance to electricity, vulnerable to fire, only plant-based spells affect them.

Chthon, Medium Aberration: HD 8, AC 20, ATK nil, MV 0′, SV F13 R- W9, AL Chaotic (LE), XP 800 (CL 10), Special-Mineral intellect that hates all animal and plant life, especially intelligent, control up to 20 plants and animals (save to negate).

Enslaver, Tiny Aberration: HD 2+1, AC 14, ATK special, MV 10′, SV F19 R17 W12, AL Chaotic (CE), XP 200 (CL 3), Special-Blindsight 30′, 90% chance of hiding among rocks, dominate creatures that touch them (save negates), hosts freed from domination must make system shock roll or die, hosts are immune to pain and mind effects.

Micemen (crossbreed of brownie and orc!), Small Humanoid: HD 1-1, AC 13, ATK 1 javelin and dagger, MV 30′, SV F14 R16 W16, AL Chaotic (LE), Special-Infravision 90′, shun bright lights, surprise (4 in 6). Despite the picture, I’d like to see these dudes as evil piglets dressed as Robin Hood.

Dragon Warrior (made from dragon teeth), Medium Construct: HD 5+1, AC special, ATK 1 weapon, MV 20′, SV F14 R14 W14, AL Neutral (N), XP 500 (CL 6), Special-Cannot speak, obey commands, last for a number of turns equal to the dragon’s age category, +1 to hit, +2 to damage, attack as 6th level fighters, immune to parent’s breath weapon type, sleep, charm and hold, clad in scale armor and armed with broadsword, disintegrate when killed or dispelled.

Grey Sqaarg, Medium Construct: HD 6, AC 22, ATK 1 grapple, MV 20′, SV F14 R14 W14, AL Neutral (N), Special-Constructs built by ancient dwarves, never initiate attack, fight with strength bonus to hit and damage equal to combined modifiers of attackers, grapples to incapacitate people, made of solid stone, magic resistance 30%.

Cyclops, Large Giant: HD 6, AC 14, ATK 2 claws (1d6), bite (2d6), MV 30′, SV F10 R14 W14, AL Chaotic (CE), Special-Hypnotic stare, -1 to hit melee, -2 to hit ranged, +2 save vs. illusion, prefer to eat demi-humans to humans, breed with human females.

White Dwarf #21 also contains a sci-fi boardgame called Survival and a dungeon called the Tomb of the Maharaja. It is, I’m afraid, quite short and not terribly interesting.

All-in-all, some pretty cool stuff from the Brits in November 1980 – and of course, lots of art by Russ Nicholson.

Well, that does it for this edition of Dragon by Dragon. As always, I leave you with Tramp …

What’s It Worth?

I’ll give you 10 gp, and not a copper more

Despite the wondrous quality of my RPG writing, it hasn’t made me a million dollars yet (just shy by about a million), so I have to have a real job. In my case, I research the commercial real estate market in Las Vegas, and write reports every quarter about how the market is doing. In the process, I often get asked questions about how much something is worth, or hear people complaining that a building sold for less than it was worth. I respond by explaining that nothing is worth more than what somebody else is willing to pay for it at any given moment. That got me thinking about a different way to value treasure.

Currently, when I’m writing a hex crawl, I’ll include treasure hordes with notations like “large ruby worth 5,000 gp”. What if, instead, I merely wrote “large ruby” and let the value be determined by the customer?

The basic idea: Come up with a matrix. The columns represent different classes of customers, the rows different categories of treasure. The data would be a random amount of money that the customer would be willing to pay for the treasure. The GM would roll this to determine the starting bid, and then roll a second dice to determine how high the customer will go. Adventurer and customer (GM) could then work out a final price for the item by haggling.

Classes of Customer

Peasants: These are your average working stiffs – laborers in towns and cities, people who carry things and serve others. They didn’t make much money in the real world – some would figure it at the equivalent of 1 or 2 copper pieces a day – but in the fantasy world, the standard is 1 silver piece per day. Either way, they have expenses, so they can’t afford to spend much on luxuries like treasure. There is a 90% chance they’ll offer goods and/or services instead of coins.

Artisans & Traders: These skilled laborers make a bit more, maybe five times as much as the peasants. This gives them a bit more money for luxuries. Still, if adventurers are going to these guys to sell their treasure, they’re probably a bit hard up. There is a 75% chance they’ll offer goods and/or services instead of coins.

Merchants: The merchants have plenty of money, though their assets probably aren’t liquid (meaning they have lots of stuff – goods, wagons, camels, ships – but not lots of money). Still, they aren’t hurting, and they can drop a few coins on the good things in life. There is a 50% chance they’ll offer goods and/or services instead of coins.

Merchant Princes: These are the big-time merchants, the fellows with royal and noble connections that allow them to own fleets and caravans and manors, etc. They’re going to be a bit more liquid than the common merchants. There is a 35% chance they’ll offer goods and/or services instead of coins.

Aristocracy: The lower end of the titled fellows – the knights and baronets and such. Like the merchants, their wealth is mostly tied up in things – land, animals, armor, weapons – so they’re like uber-barterers. They have a few coins stashed away, but they’re probably more apt to trade things like armor, horses or favors. There is a 65% chance they’ll offer goods and/or services instead of coins.

Nobility: The nobility includes barons, counts, and the like. Lots of land, but, as with the merchant princes, more liquid than the aristocracy. There is a 25% chance they’ll offer goods and/or services instead of coins.

Lesser Royalty: A step up from the nobility – the dukes and bishops. There is a 20% chance they’ll offer goods and/or services instead of coins.

Greater Royalty: Kings, queens, princes and princesses, and archbishops as well. There is a 12% chance they’ll offer goods and/or services instead of coins.

Imperials: Not Chryslers, but actual imperials – emperors, empresses, kings-of-kings, popes, etc. There is a 6% chance they’ll offer goods and/or services instead of coins.

Categories of Treasure
These are the same categories you will find in Blood & Treasure, and adapting them to your favorite game shouldn’t be too taxing on the grey matter.

Fancy Stones – agates, hematite – the stuff you find in shopping malls and tourist traps

Gems – better than stones, not as good as jewels

Jewels – rubies, emeralds, sapphires, diamonds

Common Arts & Trade Goods – armor, weapons, things made out of non-precious metals, common animal skins, rugs, many tapestries, common sorts of books. Assume the price is per ounce where applicable.

Fine Arts & Exotic Goods – lacquered wood, rare spices, items made from precious metals, bejeweled items, the skins of exotic animals, rare books, especially fine paintings and tapestries. Assume the price is per ounce where applicable.

Minor Magic Items – potions, scrolls, magical oddities

Major Magic Items – that stuff you really want to put on your character’s equipment list

The Table

The table above is a simple matrix. Find the category of treasure and the category of customer, and you get their opening bid. Roll a d6 to find out how high they’ll actually go:

1-3: No more than 25% higher, and they might have some conditions
4-5: No more than 50% higher
6: No more than 100% higher

Also, remember that there is a percentage chance that the customer offers to pay with goods and/or services rather than actual money. The value of services rendered is up to you, but most games give some sort of guidance. Favors are tricky – they may not be honored at a later date – but they could come in handy.

Obviously, some interpretation is involved here for the GM in terms of treasure category and customer category, and feel free to apply other factors. In a country where gold or silver is common, objects made from gold and silver might be considered common arts rather than fine arts. Likewise, spices, furs and pelts might be common one place and exotic in another.

The impetus for this table was a painting I posted a few weeks ago when I asked the question “Are Treasure Hordes Too Small?”. The idea here is that you can now provide a fairly large horde without having to predetermine what everything is worth. This system also gives adventurers a reason to make contact with nobles and such, which in turn can lead to further adventures.

The Greyhawk Tomb of Horrors Company – A Campaign Notion

I’m still reading Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (it’s not a small book), and I’m now reading about the various merchant companies that held monopolies to trade with various colonies of the U.K. This got me thinking about using a similar concept in fantasy rpg’s.

In this case, you would have countries or city-states establish control over a mega-dungeon and the immediate region around it. This actually makes some sense, when you consider the incredible wealth (monetary and magical) held in a mega-dungeon. For a fun campaign, you would probably want to establish multiple mega-dungeons in a campaign world, with different countries controlling them.

Each of these mega-dungeons has a different adventurer company that holds a monopoly on its exploration and exploitation, with a percentage of all proceeds going to the government that gave it the charter. The adventurer company might be a joint stock company, in which different NPC’s (wealthy merchants, sinister types, aristocrats, and the adventurers themselves) hold stock, with an annual dividend based on how well the adventurers have done in their explorations. The adventurer company could have multiple adventurers in it, of varying levels – so players could have multiple adventurers, bringing new ones in at times as old adventurers die off or rise to higher levels and need apprentices and squires.

Moreover, as the adventurers hit the name levels, the strongholds they establish could be in the region of the mega-dungeon, as a means for the company to control the area. Of course, rival nations would want to wrest control of the dungeon away from the company and its country, so now wargaming can enter into the campaign. The adventurers might also get involved in conquering other mega-dungeons, and even establishing their own companies to exploit them.

As adventurers become more wealthy, they can attempt to buy more shares in the company, maybe rising the level of directors and having to engage in all the intrigue that surrounds big money and royal courts.

I imagine this could make for a fun framework for running a campaign.

Beware the Used Armor Salesman

Image from Wikipedia

The difference between life and death for a low level warrior can turn out to be the difference between chainmail and platemail. The problem for the novice adventurer, of course, is a lack of funds. Platemail is expensive. In order to earn enough coin to buy it, a warrior has to stick his neck out enough that he might lose it.

Another option might be used, cut-rate armor. Plenty of warriors kick the bucket every year, and plenty of suits of old armor are dragged out of dungeons every day (well, presumably), so clearly used armor is widely available, and just as presumably, that armor is going to be cheaper than a new suit.

Any purchaser of a used car, though, knows well the dangers. Maybe that suit of platemail you just bought cheap is a lemon – maybe it is way more trouble than it is worth.

The following tables are a way to determine just what is wrong with that cheap suit of armor a character just bought.

Every used suit of armor comes with 1d4-1 defects. In this system, a used suit of armor sells for a base 10% discount, +10% per defect. This represents the lowest price the salesman will accept. Naturally, they’re going to try to get more than that. I’ll let you handle the haggling yourself.

Leather-Based Armors (leather, studded leather, ring mail, scale mail)
1. Loose studs – studs, bolts or scales on the armor are loose; every hit you suffer in combat has a 1 in 6 chance of reducing the armor bonus by 1 as several pieces fall off.
2. Loose fit – the armor rides down with wear, imposing a -1 penalty to Reflex saves (or saves vs. rays and dragon breath) and reducing movement by 5 feet
3. Poor workmanship – armor bonus is one lower than normal
4. Squeaky – armor squeaks in a cool environment (like most dungeons), imposing a -2 penalty to move silently checks (or a -10% penalty, depending on the system you use)
5. Stench – the armor just don’t smell right, especially once it’s been on for a while and warmed up – imposes a 1 point penalty to surprise foes (or a 2 point penalty if those foes have sensitive noses)
6. Tight fit – the more you wear it, the more is chafes, imposing a -1 penalty to hit in combat and reducing movement by 5 feet
7. Weak buckle – every time you’re in a fight there is a 1 in 6 chance per round that it snaps or falls apart, imposing a -1 penalty to the armor’s armor class bonus and a -1 penalty to hit
8. Cursed – suit is -1 cursed armor

Mail Armors (mail shirt, chainmail)
1. Jingle – armor jingles and rattles, imposing a -2 penalty to move silently checks (or a -10% penalty, depending on the system you use)
2. Loose fit – the armor rides down with wear, imposing a -1 penalty to Reflex saves (or saves vs. rays and dragon breath) and reducing movement by 5 feet
3. Loose rivets – every hit you suffer in combat has a 1 in 6 chance of reducing the armor bonus by 1 as several links fall off.
4. Poor workmanship – armor bonus is one lower than normal
5. Tight fit – the armor just doesn’t let you breath, imposing a -1 penalty to hit in combat and reducing movement by 5 feet
6. Weak backing – any hit with a weapon that deals more than 3 points of damage causes links to break and stick in your flesh
7. Weak buckle – every time you’re in a fight there is a 1 in 6 chance per round that it snaps or falls apart, imposing a -1 penalty to the armor’s armor class bonus and a -1 penalty to hit
8. Cursed – suit is -1 cursed armor

Plate Armors (banded mail, splint mail, platemail, plate armor)
1. Creaks – armor creaks and groans, imposing a -2 penalty to move silently checks (or a -10% penalty, depending on the system you use)
2. Loose fit – the armor rides down with wear, imposing a -1 penalty to Reflex saves (or saves vs. rays and dragon breath) and reducing movement by 5 feet
3. Loose rivets – every hit you suffer in combat has a 1 in 6 chance of reducing the armor bonus by 1 as several links fall off.
4. Poor workmanship – armor bonus is one lower than normal
5. Tight fit – the armor just doesn’t let you breath, imposing a -1 penalty to hit in combat and reducing movement by 5 feet
6. Weak buckle – every time you’re in a fight there is a 1 in 6 chance per round that it snaps or falls apart, imposing a -1 penalty to the armor’s armor class bonus and a -1 penalty to hit
7. Visor – the visor on the helm has a tendency to slam shut; whenever you attempt a task check or saving throw outside of combat there is a 1 in 6 chance that this happens, imposing a -1 penalty to the roll
8. Cursed – suit is -1 cursed armor

Dragon by Dragon – February 1978 (12)

The cover of this baby trumpets an exclusive preview of Andre Norton’s D&D novel, Quag Keep! Let’s see what else this issue has to offer …

The first article is Leon Wheeler‘s The More Humorous Side of D&D, which, if I’m honest, is the literary equivalent of “Let me tell you about my character”. My preference was for the little illustration …

Simple but effective line art … something missing from the more modern products, I think. But maybe I’m just an old fart.

Up next is a “D&D Variant” – A New Look at Illusionists by Rafael Ovalle. Rafael’s illusionist has a 7% chance per level of discerning an illusion created by a creature (i.e. rakshasa, succubus, leprechaun) and, if I’m reading this correctly, always can tell another illusionist’s handiwork. Their spells can affect astral and ethereal creatures because they involve light. A few new spells are added as well, including improved displacement, sensory displacement, discord, gaze of umber hulk, create spectres and basilisk gaze.

Jerome Arkenberg now provides us with The Persian Mythos. This is a quick list, and provides an Armor Class, Move, Hit Points, Magic Ability, Fighter Ability and Psionic Ability for each of the deities. Vohu Manah, “Good Mind”, for example, has the following stats:

Armor Class: 2

Move: 18″

Hit Points: 250

Magic Ability: Wizard – 20th

Fighter Ability: Lord – 15th

Psionic Ability: Class 1

Short and sweet, and probably enough to run a combat, if a combat was actually needed.  I’m sure more modern players will scoff at the AC, which would be 17 or 18 in modern games, but with 250 hit points and all that magical and fighting ability, it’s probably sufficient to clean a few old school clocks. More importantly, a combat encounter with this guy in old school rules would last about as long as it would with new school rules, just without a page of stats that will largely turn out to be useless.

It’s actually a pretty thorough list, and includes several heroes and archdemons.

Hey, check out the ad for this game …

Breaking new ground, those fellas.

In the Design Forum, James Ward lends us Some Thoughts on the Speed of a Lightning Bolt. In the article, he sings the praises of the new rule (or variant rule) on melee rounds in Eldritch Wizardry. It’s an odd article that, these days, would just be a post on a forum discussing the new TSR book.

James Endersby and John Carroll now offer another “forum comment” describing a Ship’s Cargo from some game they played involving a voyage to Japan.

James Bruner now has an article about The Druids. Probably a good synopsis of the current knowledge on druids, but much of what people thought of the druids in the 1970’s has turned out to be faulty. Still, some of it appears to be dead on, and I’m sure it was a useful article in its day, if only to veer people away from the “Druid = Fantasy Hippy” syndrome that sadly persists to this day.

Another neat ad …

If the Persian gods weren’t enough for you, Rob Kuntz now presents The Lovecraftian Mythos in Dungeons & Dragons. Apparently, J. Eric Holmes was primarily responsible. So, here’s what you all want to know …


Armor Class: 2

Move: 12″

Hit Points: 200

Magic Ability: (see below) [when you see below, you see nothing about magical ability]

Fighter Ability: 15th level

Psionic Ability: Class 1

Those who see him must save vs. fear, and if released from his sleep, all within 100 miles must save or go insane. He regenerates 10 hit points per round, can teleport 1/2 mile, is resistant to water, cold and vacuum and can call 10d10 deep ones up from the sea bottom. He retreats from the Elder Sign. He can attack physically and psionically each round – meaning, I suppose, that he can make an attack and use a psionic power each round.

A later issue has stats for Conan. When I come across it, I’ll have to pit Conan vs. Cthulhu and see how it turns out.

Another great ad, this time for All the World’s Monsters vol. 2.

It is followed by a quick, unbiased review for the new AD&D Monster Manual. The review calls it “An absolute must for every D&D enthusiast everywhere”.

The preview of Norton’s Quag Keep is next …

Milo Fagon, swordsman, and Naile Fangtooth, were-boar berserker, have met in an inn in the Thieves’ Quarter of Greyhawk. They have one thing in common, each wears on his wrist a wide copper bracelet in which are set a number of unusually shaped dice. Puzzling over this strange bond, they are also uneasily aware that something momentous is about to happen to them both, though they cannot see that any of the other people in the inn are paying any attention to them. 

Well, not a terrible issue – the pantheons might have come in handy, but much of the rest seems like the equivalent of chit chat. We finish with the following …

Dragon by Dragon … April 1977 (6)

Ah – spring of 1977. I’m sure after the big Bucharest earthquake and the discovery of rings around Uranus, people were almost too worn out to delve into another issue of The Dragon, but delve they did!

The cover for this issue was by “Morno”, AKA Brad Schenck, who you can find at deviantART. He’s mostly known for his contributions to Arduin and computer gaming, and he has lots of nice retro sci-fi material in his gallery. Check it out.

First article is by Guy W. McLimore, Jr.An Alternate Beginning Sequence For Metamorphosis: Alpha. Article begins with a neat little graphic of old pseudo-computer code … takes me back to programming BASIC on my old Vic-20. Good times. The article takes a while to get to the point, describing a clone bank on the Warden. [Hey – just got it – James Ward – Warden – damn I’m slow]. The meat of the article is a little d% table to determine whether you are human, a latent mutant or a true mutant and how many mutations and defects you have. Do the new versions of WOTC Gamma World delve into defects at all? I dig that defects are just part of character creation back in the day … you play the cards the dice deal you.

The article continues with many more tables, including more detail for latent mutants and the number of programmed ship skills one might have, including some special psychic skills for humans only.

The author would go on to be a part of the Doctor Who RPG, Mekton Empires and a host of products for Star Trek and Starfleet Command.

Ronald C. Spencer, Jr. (another junior … I smell conspiracy) presents Sea Trade in D&D Campaigns. This one springs from a campaign being played on the ballistic missile sub USS Benjamin Franklin … I love the stuff that comes from actual play. In this case, a fighting-man wanted to set up a shipping business on the side – smart guy!

D&D produces two wonderful sorts of rules. On the one hand, you have the super simple, elegant rule – like shields will be splintered – and on the other hand, the baroque set of charts that put a warm glow into the hearts of people like me, even if we never plan on actually using them. This one has a single chart and a few assumptions – one page to cover the whole concept. I like it.

The basics of the system are set up as a number of assumptions. To be brief … (1) Cargo is not specified; (2) small merchant ships can carry a max value of 10,000 gp, large merchants 50,000 gp; (3) ships have to pay a pilot fee of 500 gp for small ships, 2,500 gp for large ships and a 5% import tax based on the value of the cargo; (4) profit/loss is determined with a dice roll (i.e. the neat little chart) and is based on the number of ports the ship bypasses (i.e. the further you go, the more you make, but the more likely you are to lose a ship to storms or pirates).

The ship owner invests in a cargo and then gives sailing orders to hit ship – where to go, which ports to bypass, how much profit/loss to accept (if a port is bypassed to avoid a loss, it counts as a bypassed port – I suppose this involves ignoring a bad roll and trying again). Ultimately, the DM (or D/M as he writes it – love this period when things were not yet settled and official) makes the percentile roll and money is either lost or made.

Ships are delayed 1d4 weeks at ports other than their home port, and when ships are lost at sea the owner is notified 1d6+2 weeks later. Neat system, which I’ll happily use in my Blood & Treasure campaign, assuming anyone goes to the trouble of buying a ship or investing in one.

M.A.R. Barker now chimes in with a painting guide for Legions of the Petal Throne. I can’t imagine how anyone in the hobby back in the day could have resisted buying the Tekumel material … very evocative. Love the art.

Morno (Brad Schenck) now provides some fiction in the form of The Forest of Flame. From now on, I will present one random paragraph from each bit of fiction …

Some obsure glory, had thought Visaque, must belong to one who unlocked the musty secrets of the tome; the dream was even now fresh on him. Weeks, then months of spare hours were spent in the attempt of understanding the mysterious text. By the time its crabbed script was half-deciphered the task became somewhat simpler, and often he read in the small hours its forgotten tales by candlelight. He read of the Elder Days and the Days To Come: of heroes, mages, and of strange devices . . . of Crowyn the Worme’s Bane and of his star-crossed blade; Of the strange curse of Vyckar the Grim; Akor the Valkrian, Nokra Negreth, the Red Branch heroes . . . all the warriors and their impeccable deeds. And then, the mages: Bran-Herla whose soul was lost by the wide waters; Vergil Magus; Garanyr the Heart-Misled; of Myrddin, of Verbius, Therion, and the loremaster Isaac Decapole D’alsace . . . and in an indefinite reference on a faded page, was inscribed the name of Vishre Vishran. When Visaque first read that name it struck an eerie chord within him, as if of a misplaced memory. Even now the name was uncomfortably close to an identity. Yet for contemplation there was, today, no time. That the mage was called an Ipsissimus, he knew, but knew not the rank so named. For all his study (so unclear in the remembering . . .) all Visaque had learned was that Vishran dwelt in the Castle Arestel, atop the mountains eastward. (Arestel . . .)

In the Designer’s Forum (that’s a neat idea … a place where game designers can just add a few bits and pieces and corrections to their games – if any designers out there want to talk about their stuff in NOD, let me know).

This forum is by James Ward, with Further Rules, Modifications and Clarifications for Metamorphosis Alpha. He goes into mutations for taller mutants (roll 1d20 for additional height, add one “striking die” for each four feet above normal height – you can get some tall freaking mutants in MA!), shorter mutants, additional body parts, wings and some psychic powers.

Next, there’s an add for D&D miniatures. They guarantee satisfaction. Fantasy Forge has some neat Tekumel miniatures (I wonder how many are still out there, painted and waiting to be used), followed by an ad for Space Gamer out of Austin, TX.

After the adverts, we get chapter 6 of the Gnome Cache. I quote from the summary …

Unable to resist the wanderlust any longer, Dunstan has robbed his father’s strongbox and set forth on his quest for adventure and glory.

In his naivete, Dunstan casts his lot in with a band of scurrilous cutthroats, believing them to be adventurers sharing his noble pursuits.

Our hero learns the true nature of his erstwhile companions, and his pockets are the poorer for it. Dunstan parts company from the band, narrowly escaping apprehension by the Warders. In the confusion, he ‘liberates’ a horse, and sets off for Huddlefoot, there to spend the night in the stables.

Our would-be knight acquires a would-be squire, and strikes a bargain with Evan to travel with his caravan to Rheyton and Nehron. This arranged, he takes care of the incriminating horse, spinning a tall tale of being on official business. This done, they await departure . . .

David W. Miller presents: D&D Option: Determination of Psionic Abilities, giving some additional ways people could pick up psionics in the game. I kinda dig the baroque nature of psionics in old D&D, though I don’t remember if we ever used them or not. Maybe one or two characters were lucky enough to develop them.

Jim Hayes and Bill Gilbert cover Morale in D&D – an important system when you consider the game’s wargaming roots and the importance of wandering dungeons with large bodies of men-at-arms and torch bearers. This one has a couple charts, lots of modifiers and … honestly, I’d rather just roll 2d6 and be done with it.

In Fineous Fingers, we get a visit from Bored-Flak, the Bolt Lobber, who has a firing sight on his finger. He saves the party’s bacon and then disappears into the dungeon.

The Featured Creature is the Death Angel by John Sullivan. Not the toughest monster in the world – 7 Hit Dice (d8’s, it notes) and AC 4 (or 15, in modern games), but it does a death scythe that forces people to make a save vs. death at -3 (and you lose a point of constitution if you fail). If you can take this sucker on at range, you’re okay … except it can teleport at will. They also have 95% magic resistance. Fortunately, they only attack their intended victim – essentially somebody who has pissed off a god or demi-god. The take away here … leave those gemstone eyes in the idol alone!

Next (and final) add is for the old dungeon geomorphs – only $2.99.

All in all, a decent issue, but not spectacular.